Monday, December 19, 2011
Bah, Humbug!
By Harris Sherline

Why do we allow a vocal minority to dictate how we are permitted to celebrate or even acknowledge some of our most cherished traditions? Specifically, at this time of the year, Christmas.
When you try to please everyone, you please no one. Putting it another way, when you try not to offend anyone, you are bound to offend almost everyone. And, that seems to be the situation with Christmas.
I, for one, am sick of it. Not Christmas, but the people who are attacking our most cherished traditions. And, where is the “silent majority?” Why aren’t more people standing up and telling the vocal minority on the Left to get lost. Instead, we see major corporations, educators, the media and our so-called political leaders routinely capitulating to the forces of political correctness.
Once again we are being subjected to the never-ending onslaught of politically correct efforts to do away with another of America’s historical traditions. Led by the ACLU, the warriors of the Left, who believe in nothing and want to prevent those who do believe in something from exercising their own rights. The ACLU has sued the U.S. Government to take God, Christmas or anything religious out of all public displays.
The American Family Association reported that this year the city of Richmond, Virginia agreed to rename their annual “Christmas” parade the “Dominion Holiday Parade,” at the insistence of its corporate sponsor, Dominion, an energy company. However, after receiving thousands of emails and hundreds of letters of protest, the city reversed its decision and voted to change the name to the “Dominion Christmas Parade.” My question is, why couldn’t they have made that choice in the first place?
Following are some of the ways to celebrate the “Holiday” season that are currently considered acceptable:
-It’s OK to celebrate “The Holidays” in our public institutions, as long as they do not appear to advocate a particular religious belief, especially Christianity.
-It’s OK to wish people “Happy Holidays” but not “Merry Christmas.” By the way, what Holiday would it be if not Christmas? The last time I looked, the word was based on the name, Christ.
-It’s OK to celebrate Kwanza, an artificial, made-up tradition, in our schools.
-It’s OK to celebrate Witchcraft.
-It’s OK to acknowledge Muslim beliefs, but not Christian.
I could go on, and no doubt you could add more examples to the list, but my point in writing this is to express my resentment in general about the dispute over Christmas that has been taking place in America in recent years and about the right of Americans to publicly celebrate their traditions.
It might help understand my perspective if you know a little something about my background:
-Start with the fact that I am Jewish, and I do not celebrate Christmas.
-Second, I grew up during the depression and World War II, a time when American values were clearly understood and openly supported by just about everyone.
-Third, I am well educated, was formerly a professional practitioner (as a CPA), and in the past 50 years I have owned and/or operated a number of businesses, my own as well as those of clients.
-Fourth, I have not had any formal religious training and do not attend religious services. I am what is referred to as a secular Jew, although I do believe in G-d.
-Finally, my wife is not Jewish.
So, given my background, why should I care about Christmas?
Because I appreciate the value of Christian moral teachings, that’s why.
Furthermore, I believe that freedom of speech (and expression) should include everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, not just a vocal anti-religious minority.
Our nation was founded largely by Christians, whose values and teachings provide much of the basis of our legal system and traditions. I grew up in that environment, and it never hurt me in any way. As a matter of fact, I believe it was a good thing that Christian traditions and values were present in our schools, and I would like to see them return again.
Preventing people from openly expressing themselves, even under the guise of being fair and equitable, simply forces them underground. They may no longer say what’s on their minds, but that doesn’t change their beliefs. The result is a simmering hostility that’s likely to erupt one day in ways no one expects or wants. You can’t keep a lid on a pressure cooker forever.
If it becomes acceptable to prevent people from observing certain time honored traditions, such as Christmas, it can easily become equally acceptable to silence others when they speak out about such issues as educating their children, the justice system and the death penalty, same sex marriage, gays in the military, universal health care, social security, taxation, or a host of other concerns they may have.
As noted earlier, I support Christian values. I grew up, was educated and worked in a society that had strong Christian influences, and in the eight decades of my life no one has ever tried to force me to believe as they do.
So, my inclination when the few try to silence the majority is to tell them to shut up and get lost, which brings me back to Christmas.
Although I resent the actions of the politically correct minority who are attempting to prevent others from observing Christmas and want to remove every last vestige of Christianity and Christmas from public life, my wife and I do not observe the Holiday ourselves. Unfortunately, however, the excessive commercialization of Christmas does trouble me. I’m not bothered that Christians want to celebrate the birth of Christ, and I don’t mind that their celebration has been intricately woven into the fabric of our culture. In fact, I support both.
What I do mind is turning Christmas into nothing more than a marketing opportunity. It seems to get worse every year, and the venal displays of greed and avarice that are demonstrated by businesses and consumers alike are very offensive to me.
© 2011 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Let The Reindeer Games Begin
With the start of the holidays, young people face added danger in this special season otherwise known for celebration and good cheer.  The hooligan?  Often it’s alcohol.
School break offers up unstructured, and perhaps unsupervised, time and thus some significant risk – especially when you add in the propensity of some adults to promote alcohol-included events as a way to mark Christmas, Hanukkah, or the New Year.
Let the reindeer games begin.
Teens and Alcohol
According to research from SADD and Liberty Mutual Insurance:
  • Almost one third (31 percent) of teens say that they have drunk alcohol with their parents.
  • Overall, one quarter of teens say that they are allowed to drink alcohol when they are not with their parents, about one in eight host parties where alcohol is served, and slightly more than forty percent are permitted to attend parties where alcohol is available.
As for the last point, more teens are saying that their parents allow them to go to parties where alcohol is being served in 2011 (41 percent) than just two years ago (36 percent). In addition, more teens are reporting that they are allowed to drink alcohol without their parents (25 percent) in 2011 than in 2009 (21 percent).
That’s not good news. 
Nor is the fact that one in three teens who use alcohol say drinking is allowed by parents on special occasions – like holidays.
Parental Support of Underage Drinking
Many adults support underage drinking because they believe they have little say in the matter (53 percent). In fact, parents who adopt zero-tolerance policies are the number one reason children don’t drink. 
For example, high school students who tend to avoid alcohol are more than twice as likely as those who repeatedly use alcohol to say their parents never let them drink at home (84 percent vs. 40 percent).
Other parents condone alcohol use because they feel if they allow teen drinking at home, it will keep their kids from drinking somewhere else.
Not really. 
More than half (57 percent) of high school students who report their parents allow them to drink at home - even just once in a while - report that they drink elsewhere with their friends, as compared to just 14 percent of teens whose parents don’t let them drink at home.
It’s also true that some adults just don’t see the harm in allowing teens to drink.  But, if that’s the case, they’re just not looking hard enough.
  • Young people use alcohol more frequently and in higher volumes than all other illegal drugs combined.
  • The earlier a young person starts drinking (research suggests the average age of onset of underage drinking is twelve or thirteen – meaning many are drinking at even younger ages), the more likely it is they will suffer from substance abuse problems throughout their lifetime.
  • And, neurological research suggests that alcohol use may permanently affect quickly evolving adolescent brains.  And not for the better.
Ringing in the New Year
From the early eighties to the mid-nineties, alcohol-related crash deaths among youth plummeted by 60 percent.  But progress can be slowed, trends turned, and higher risk realized if we don’t stay focused on the goal of keeping kids safe.
How does that relate to the holidays? 
Consider that teen drivers view New Year’s Eve as the most dangerous seasonal event when it comes to driving.  Wonder why?  After summer, New Year’s Eve ranks at the top of the list of when teens report driving impaired.
And much of that risk remains hidden from those who could be empowered to matter most:  parents.
Indeed, about one in eight teenage drivers report that they don’t tell the truth to their parents about driving under the influence of alcohol (13 percent) and one in seven are dishonest about driving under the influence of other drugs (15 percent). 
Even so, good news can be found in the demonstrated power of parents and peers to influence the driving-related decision-making of young people.  Together, they form a significant backstop against poor choices, saving young lives hanging in the balance. 
What better holiday present is there than that?
3D Month
It’s time to tame the trend on teen drinking and bend the curve back toward a safer place.  December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month – and the truth is that if young people aren’t drinking, they won’t be driving drunk.
So much for reindeer games.
Stephen Wallace serves as senior advisor at SADD, Inc. (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and associate research professor and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University.  For more information about SADD, visit sadd.org.  For more information about Stephen, visit stephengraywallace.com.
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Monday, November 21, 2011
Another Year, Another Thanksgiving
With the Thanksgiving Holiday almost upon us, this year may be an occasion when Americans not only celebrate with traditional gatherings with family and friends, but perhaps we should all give special thanks that the American ideal is still celebrated during one of the most troubling and worrisome periods in our history.
With that in mind, following are some Thanksgiving messages that I thought you would find of interest:
First, a bit of humor:
They’re Coming For Thanksgiving
An elderly man in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. Forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old man says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her," and hangs up.

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced!" she shouts, "I'll take care of this!"

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at the old man, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "They're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way"
Next, a Thanksgiving proclamation by the man who is arguably the greatest President in America’s history:
From The Heritage Foundation: “...enjoy President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation below.

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
Finally, a November 25, 2004 Wall Street Journal article, “A Very Christian Holiday,” by David Gelerneter:

"Fundamentalists" gave us Thanksgiving, and we should thank them for it.
The First Thanksgiving is one of those heartwarming stories that every child used to know, and some up-to-date teachers take special delight in suppressing. Many teachers approach children nowadays with the absurd presumption that they are triumphalist little bigots who must be taken down a notch and made to grasp that their country has made mistakes. In fact they are little ignoramuses who leave high school believing that their country has made nothing but mistakes, and they never do learn what revisionist history is a revision of.

It is especially sad when children don't learn the history of Thanksgiving, which is that rarest of anomalies--a religious festival celebrated by many faiths. The story of the first Thanksgiving would inspire and soothe this nation if only we would let it--this nation so deeply divided between Christians and non-Christians or nominal Christians, where Christians are a solid majority on a winning streak and many non-Christians are scared to death, of "Christian fundamentalists" especially.

Christian fundamentalists were the first European settlers in this country, and Thanksgiving is their idea. (Puritans were one type of Christian fundamentalist--"fundamentalist" insofar as they focused on biblical basics. The Pilgrims were radical Puritans.) Many Americans are afraid that fundamentalists are inherently intolerant and want to stamp out all religions but their own. Yet that first thanksgiving was celebrated by radical Christian fundamentalists, and American Indians were honored guests--as every child used to know. Obviously fundamentalists are capable of tolerating non-Christians on occasion. In 17th-century America, some Christians used the Bible to explain exactly why American Indians must be treated respectfully. But another fact about that first thanksgiving is also worth pondering: no one tried to convert anyone else. Most of today's fundamentalist groups don't fish for converts either -- but those who do ought to contemplate thanksgiving number one.
The Pilgrims celebrated that first thanksgiving in 1621; Edward Winslow describes it in a letter to a friend. "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours." There was a great celebration, "many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoit with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted." The Indian contingent "went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation."

The first settlers mostly wanted to be friends with the Indians--and not only for obvious practical reasons. Alexander Whitaker was an early Virginia settler. His description of America was published in 1613. He doesn't think highly of American Indian religion, but goes on at length about American Indian talent and intelligence. ("They are a very understanding generation, quick of apprehension"; "exquisite in their inventions, and industrious in their labour.") And after all, he points out, "One God created us, they have reasonable souls and intellectual faculties as well as we; we all have Adam for our common parent: yea, by nature the condition of us both is all one."

In time, attitudes changed. American settlers and American Indians fell to treating one another savagely, and the Indians got the worst of it. But human greed and violence, not Christianity, brought those changes about. Christian preachers did not always condemn them--but, Christian or not, they were mere human beings after all.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony--settled by fundamentalists only slightly less radical than the Pilgrims--declared its first thanksgiving in 1630. By the late 1700s, independence was in the air, and the Continental Congress proclaimed many days of thanksgiving. President George Washington lost no time declaring the first thanksgiving under the new constitution in 1789. Each of these early proclamations was good for a single occasion. But after President Lincoln had proclaimed thanksgiving days in 1863 and '64--specifying the last Thursday in November both times--this characteristically American festival became a yearly custom. Lincoln was not only America's greatest president; he was our greatest religious figure, too. In his last speech--four days before he was murdered, with the Civil War at an end at last--he proposed one more day of thanksgiving. "He, from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for national thanksgiving is being prepared."

What to conclude? In a democracy where the majority is Christian, you can no more nitpick public life free of Christianity (as if it were so much lint on a frazzled sweater) than you can hold down the top on a pot of boiling water. Public life in this country has been fundamentally Christian since the first European settlers arrived. It continued Christian when the new nation won its independence and proclaimed its Bill of Rights, and will stay Christian forever, or until a majority decides otherwise--no matter how many antireligious rulings are extracted from how many antidemocratic power-mad judges.
Yet the fear of Christian fundamentalism that haunts a significant minority of Americans ought not to be casually dismissed. Some groups still see it as their duty to make converts of non-Christians. History suggests that they had better approach their mission with exquisite tact, or their designated target populations will soon come to hate their guts. I spend a fair amount of effort trying to convince friends and colleagues that their hostility to Christianity is ignorant and bigoted. But when a deadly earnest young Christian approaches, displays an infuriating though subliminal holier-than-thouness, and tries to convert me--it happens rarely, but occasionally--I metamorphose for an instant into a raging leftist.

But that long-ago First Thanksgiving still speaks to and for every American, and we ought to listen. It speaks to Christians; they thought it up. It speaks to Jews--Pilgrim Christianity was a profoundly "Hebraic" Christianity; the Pilgrims saw themselves as a chosen people arrived in a promised land; their organizations were based on "covenants," and they were devoted to the Hebrew Bible. (Late in life the eminent Pilgrim father William Bradford began studying Hebrew, so he might behold "the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty." More than most American Jews can say.) Those who are neither Christian nor Jew are also present in spirit, represented by the great king Massasoit. Everyone is "entertained and feasted," and everyone leaves with the same faith that brung 'im. Thanksgiving speaks for Americans too: it is just like us to set a day aside for a national thank you to the Lord, or (anyway) to someone. Americans continue to be what Lincoln called us, the "almost chosen people," struggling to do right by man and God.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
© 2011, Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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Friday, November 11, 2011
Beckner: Professional Educators Defy Unions, Embrace Reforms
By Gary Beckner

Education and labor reforms have been the subject of much of this year’s domestic headlines. Teacher protests, picket lines and fiery rhetoric between teacher unions and reformers have been playing out in Wisconsin, Ohio and beyond.

While the war of words continues to rage on, individual teacher voices are often lost as the union interests of self-preservation and forced dues trump the needs and changing views of our most noble profession.

After this year’s eventful legislative sessions, a survey released in mid-August indicates that Americans overwhelmingly support teachers but not teacher unions.

Among the survey results, a solid majority (71 percent) of respondents said they have trust and confidence in America’s teachers. However, when asked about the teacher unions, 47 percent say they believe the unions have hurt education, compared with only 26 percent believing the unions have helped education.

While the findings are nothing new to the growing number of teachers disenchanted with their unions, it appears that the public has begun to draw a clear distinction between teachers, as individual professionals, and the actions of the teacher unions.

This distinction is further sharpened by a survey released last week by the Association of American Educators, the largest national nonunion professional educator organization.

The AAE randomly polled its members from all 50 states to better understand the changing sentiments of teachers relating to education and labor reform. The findings show that more and more teachers are embracing reforms — contrary to union-held stances relating to alternative certification programs such as Teach for America, school choice, virtual education and collective bargaining.

For instance, despite desperate union-led attempts to preserve its monopoly on teacher preparation programs and teacher certification, AAE members recognize that in order to attract our nation’s best and brightest to the teaching profession, we must consider policies that allow degreed professionals an easier path to the classroom.

As an example, while union officials have nationally denounced programs such as Teach for America for “union busting,” 85 percent of AAE members support Teach for America and its mission to place recent top-tier college graduates into high-need classrooms after an intense training program.

With regard to school choice, 61 percent of those surveyed agree with an Arizona law providing tax credit scholarships to special education students in traditional public schools, allowing them to attend the public or private school of their choice. While the union-backed establishment sees school choice as detrimental to the teaching profession, AAE member teachers support varied policies that empower parents to choose the learning environment best-suited for their child.

While defenders of the status quo see virtual education options as a threat, professional teachers are embracing new technologies as the wave of the future. An overwhelming 75 percent of AAE members support a Utah law guaranteeing high school students access to any course via a state online database, allowing students to customize their learning experience.

In the wake of 48 states considering labor reform legislation in 2011, the value and cost of collective bargaining and a one-size-fits-all system has been heavily debated. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents assert that collective bargaining has little to no effect on their ability to teach effectively, and just 28 percent believe collective bargaining equates to a better-compensated workforce.

A majority of member teachers (63 percent) would prefer to negotiate their own contracts to account for their unique circumstances, further calling into question the union’s one-size-fits-all system. A nearly unanimous 98 percent of AAE members believe that teachers should be free to choose whom they wish to associate with, further advancing AAE’s position that no educator should be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, despite laws to the contrary in 21 states. Moreover, 84 percent of those teachers surveyed believe that teacher unions are hurting the teaching profession.

This powerful data demonstrates that teacher unions are out of touch with the opinions of many classroom teachers. It is this disconnect that has caused thousands of teachers to leave the unions for nonunion, professional associations that offer many of the benefits they need without the union baggage.

In considering new common-sense reforms as we move forward, policymakers and other stakeholders need to know that hundreds of thousands of classroom teachers are indeed agreeable to policies that put students ahead of labor union interests.

Gary Beckner is executive director of the Association of American Educators.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Watch Your Mouth – Part II
By Harris Sherline

My wife and I have recently seen several movies in which we felt that the language was over-the-top.  The latest was The Ides of March, which opened with a barrage of four-letter words that would make most people blush when they are used in mixed company.  It was so bad that a few people left shortly after the beginning, which we speculated was probably because they were offended and unwilling to wait and see if it got any better.
Another recent movie in which the lead character barely had any lines that did not contain at least one offensive word was 50/50.
I’m not sure what motivates screen writers to write scripts that are dominated by such language, but assume it’s because they think it will make their films more appealing to movie goers, or at least the audience they are attempting to reach.
I submit that it doesn’t.  I have never heard anyone say that they wanted to see a movie because it had a lot of swearing in it.
Furthermore, call me old and out-of-touch, which I may be, but there are a lot of people in my generation (I’m 83) who agree with me, and we are a significant part of the movie-going public.
There was a time when openly swearing was not just frowned upon, it was illegal in some circumstances, such as on the air (radio or T.V.).  But, unfortunately, time and the changing mores of American society have not only made inappropriate language commonplace but almost universally accepted.
Years ago, it was not unusual for parents to wash their children’s mouth out with soap for using “bad language.”  Today, it seems as though many parents have been corrupted by the change in mores to that point that they not only tolerate their children’s use of offensive language but frequently use it themselves.  We are routinely assaulted by over-the-top verbal assaults in the movies, on T.V., in the schools and workplace, even in public speeches on occasion.
For example, in March 2010, the Vice President of the United States dropped the “f-bomb” when the President signed the health care reform bill.  Joe Biden’s comment was intended for Obama’s ears only, when Biden whispered, “This is a big f-ing deal,” as they shook hands in front of a cheering crowd.
Researchers point out that swearing has been around for centuries, noting that the taboo status of certain words is what makes them powerful, because they enable people to express strong feelings.
Studies have found that swearing can provide both “emotional release and relief from pain.”  People often feel better after saying something that might otherwise be considered taboo.  The specific words that are considered unacceptable change over time, but every generation has such expressions.
The power of swear words comes from their status as generally being inappropriate in “polite society.”  The more restrictions there are on specific words, the more alluring it is to use them.  Geoff Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, notes, “It’s emphatic and has an intensity of emotion.”
Psychologist Timothy Jay, of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, believes that words like the “f-bomb” have “an intensity of emotion that conveys the intensity of emotion that best expresses strong feelings.”
Curse words have been around for hundreds of years, maybe more, although the specific words that are considered vulgar change over time.
Throughout history, swear words have reflected the taboos of time and place. A century or two ago, religious words dominated the lewd lexicon: Hell and damn were unspeakable in proper company.
Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary wrote a book called “The F-Word,” noted that the “f-bomb” has 15th-century Germanic origins, and that the word's root meant "to move back and forth."
Over the centuries, the f-word has appeared repeatedly in obscene contexts in letters and poems, sometimes written in code. At some point in the 20th century, Sheidlower said it began to be used beyond its sexual connotations. As the word became more figurative, it also became increasingly versatile.
Today, variations of the word can function as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb and an expletive. It can be used to describe almost anything. Not only can the word be anything you want it to be, it has also become an equal-opportunity expression.  That is, women use it just as much as men do..
"I think this is one of the most important words in the language," Sheidlower said. "People use it all the time."

Swearing in the workplace has also become more commonplace, although there are limits, such as being openly using swear words in meetings or when they are directed as specific individuals, such as calling a woman a “bitch” or a “whore.”
In one dispute, the defendant argued that he had a right to freedom of speech based on section 16 of the Constitution and should therefore not be disciplined for his statements. However, the arbitrator found that this right also carried a duty, which related to respecting the fundamental worth and dignity of fellow human beings. The argument was therefore rejected and the finding of dismissal confirmed.
One important labor law case concluded that there are a variety of employment environments where vulgar language is accepted as a standard means of communication. The finding noted that vulgar language in the workplace occurs in two situations: when an employee or manager swears as a sign of frustration and not at a person, and where swearing is directed at a fellow-employee. Although swearing may be the cause for a reprimand of the employee, swearing that is directed at a fellow-employee could result in serious grievance and/or disciplinary action, perhaps even harassment claims against the employer.
© 2011 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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Thursday, October 6, 2011
President Barack Obama now says he will sign no jobs legislation unless “the rich...the millionaires and billionaires...pay their fair share” in higher taxes. 

“Mr. Obama's new jobs proposal would impose $15 in tax increases for every dollar in government spending cuts,” says Lowell Ponte, co-author of the widely-praised 2011 book The Inflation Deception: Six Ways Government Tricks Us...And Seven Ways to Stop It!

“This is a road to ruin for our economy and America's future,” warns Ponte. 

“President Obama has already increased government's 'take' of all the wealth America produces – our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – by 25 percent. He has enlarged the government by 25 percent in less than three years and wants to take even more from America's producers,” says Ponte.


“Such class warfare will make America poorer, not richer, for seven reasons,” says Ponte, a former roving editor of Reader’s Digest Magazine and a think tank futurist. 

“The richest 3 percent of taxpayers already pay 52 percent of all income taxes – nearly double their share of total national pre-tax income – while the bottom 51 percent of Americans pay no income taxes at all. So who isn't paying their 'fair share' of national defense, highways and other benefits we all enjoy equally?” asks Ponte. 

“The U.S. Constitution says we're all supposed to have equal protection under the law – except, apparently, the tax laws,” says Ponte, who in 2010 co-authored the book Crashing the Dollar: How to Survive a Global Currency Collapse.

“America already has the highest corporate tax rate in the world – 35 percent,” says Ponte. “And the top 10 percent of households pay 45 percent of ALL U.S. taxes, which in the words of one U.S. Senator is 'a higher tax burden on upper income earners than any other industrialized nation.' 

“We are already the most 'progressive' nation on earth,” says Ponte, “yet President Obama seems obsessed with waging war against those who produce the wealth and already pay sky-high taxes....with killing the geese that lay America's golden eggs.”

“Some contribute a lot more to society than others – and not just in taxes,” Ponte says, “yet President Obama's tax-the-rich policies will harm such contributors in seven ways.”

“Number One,” says Ponte, “is that 65 percent – nearly two-thirds – of Mr. Obama's targeted rich are business owners or investors. If more of their capital is expropriated by government, they will have less to invest in new and expanded businesses. Government will gobble up the seed corn from which future prosperity would have grown.” 

“Government, we need to remember, doesn't really produce much of anything,” says Ponte. “So where will Mr. Obama get the wealth to 'spread around' after he's taxed to death all those who produce the wealth?”

“Number Two,” says Ponte, “is that less private capital to invest will mean less hiring and fewer jobs, especially by the capitalists who create America's small businesses. One study estimates that the new taxes President Obama seeks will destroy up to 1.2 million jobs.”

“Number Three,” says Ponte, “is that the rich account for 36 percent of all charitable contributions. President Obama wants to abolish tax-deductible charities so that government gets this money instead, and so people in need will be forced into dependency on government. Unlike charities, however, a welfare-state government has no incentive to make people productive, independent and self-reliant.”

“Number Four,” says Ponte, “is that in the long run government won't really get more than 19.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product through higher taxes on the rich, according to research by San Francisco economist William Kurt Hauser. Higher taxes prompt the rich to move overseas, use more tax avoidance techniques or shrink their businesses. According to Hauser's Law, when government exceeds this tax threshold it makes the economy worse but gains no more revenue for politicians.

Even if taxing the rich did work, government getting more and more of its total revenue from fewer and fewer people makes society unstable – like an upside-down pyramid balanced on its tiny peak. If those rich flee the country, or go broke, the loss of this narrow tax base will leave the government in a terrible way – as has happened in California with its “reverse gold rush” as the rich now rush with their gold to relocate in other states.

Maryland imposed a special tax on millionaires, expecting to make billions more in revenue. The taxes it collected instead fell as millionaires fled the state, forcing greedy lawmakers to reconsider. 

As politicians from Presidents John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan demonstrated, the way to increase government revenue is to cut taxes, increase prosperity for all, and thereby harvest more tax money by taking a smaller piece from a much bigger pie.

“Number Five,” says Ponte, “is that less revenue from higher taxes will goad government into using the one form of taxation people cannot escape – inflation. Politicians such as Mr. Obama have become addicted to printing paper money out of thin air, which gives the government money by devaluing every dollar Americans have honestly earned and saved.”

“President Obama has already devastated America's economy by spending more than $5 Trillion of such stimulus money,” says Ponte. “Then, with the Federal Reserve, Mr. Obama has built a dike of imposed near-zero percent interest rates to hold back the tidal wave of inflation this will cause.”

“This dike is about to break, flooding our economy with devalued dollars and economic devastation,” says Ponte. 

“Through inflation Mr. Obama has robbed everyone who trusts the U.S. Dollar, both here and abroad,” says Ponte. “Inflation, however, is the cruelest and most regressive of taxes, hurting the poor most of all because they need every dollar they have to retain its purchasing power. President Obama instead chose to rob the poor through inflation to enrich the government.”

Almost everyone – rich, middle class, or poor – has ways to hedge against inflation destroying the value of their savings, as Ponte can explain during an interview.

“Number Six,” says Ponte, “is that Mr. Obama is using the old Democratic Party 'Tax Trap.' Almost a century ago politicians promised that an income tax would tax only the rich, and people who envied the rich got suckered into supporting it. Decades ago the politicians promised that the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) would tax only those rich folks who weren't 'paying their fair share.'”

“Today nearly half of American families are paying an income tax that was supposed to hit only the rich,” says Ponte, “and Mr. Obama promises, if reelected, to extend the Alternative Minimum Tax to pick the pockets 70 million Americans or more, most of whom earn scarcely more than average income.”

“Wake up and smell the tax trap!” says Ponte, who co-authored a major September 2011 White Paper titled Re-Making Money. “With the inflation that's about to flood America, we'll all be making a million dollars or more – but that income will have less real purchasing power than $50,000 in today's dollars.”

“President Obama is setting us ALL up to pay sky-high taxes as if we were rich,” says Ponte. “He's already set in motion the ultra-high inflation that will make this happen. For heaven's sake, open your eyes and see how he's setting America's private-sector workers up for the slaughter!”

“Number Seven,” says Ponte, “is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. President Obama is playing the usual Democratic Party 'divide-and-conquer' politics of pitting people against each other by race and class.

“You cannot build a healthy, prosperous, free society,” says Ponte, “through a politics that violates two of the Bible's Ten Commandments – “Thou Shalt Not Covet Anything That Is Thy Neighbor's,” and “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” even if President Obama is acting as your middle-man promising to take what somebody else has and to give it to you.”

“This politics of envy and class warfare will frighten away investors, both domestic and foreign,” says Ponte. “It is putting our economy into a death spiral that will impoverish everyone who remains in the socialist America Obama is creating – everyone, that is, except a tiny class of political rulers that will eventually devour each and every minority that has anything left to steal.”

“Mr. Obama will cannibalize America's poor as well,” says Ponte. “In his famous Berlin speech Barack Obama described himself as a 'citizen of the world.' As a radical left ideologue he meant this. Even America's poor are rich by world standards, and Mr. Obama will eventually confiscate what the poor here have, too, and redistribute that along with the rest of America's wealth and vanishing prosperity to the world. Every American will be a loser in President Obama's class warfare.”


“With his popularity plummeting, it's easy to see why President Obama is following his Chicago community-organizer handbook Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky – who taught how to demonize your opponents, polarize every difference of opinion into black hats versus white hats, and win by making reasonable compromise impossible by fomenting class warfare,” says Ponte.

“Mr. Obama is desperate to demonize the rich to distract voters from his own failure,” says Ponte.


“Taxes on the rich will hit Middle Class Americans, too,” says Ponte. “The rich created and own the companies that make what you buy, and you will wind up paying their higher taxes passed on to you in the form of higher prices.”

“This,” says Ponte, “is what South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint explains in his September 2011 investigation The Folly of 'Taxing the Rich.' Successful businesspeople create the jobs, paychecks, taxes, products and prosperity on which the Middle Class, the government and the poor all depend. Confiscating their investment capital will bring capital punishment down on all of us.”

“No wonder our economy has slowed to almost zero growth. Real unemployment is stuck at Europe-like double digit levels. The reason,” says Ponte, “is that President Obama has frightened business owners out of investing and hiring. ”

“We need an open, honest political debate over what each taxpayer's 'fair share' should be, and what kind of society we want,” says Ponte. “Do we want the free market, small government society that America's Founders set forth in our Constitution, or the sort of Euro-socialist redistribute-the-wealth collectivist governmental system most of our ancestors fled to America to escape?”

Lowell Ponte (PON-tee) is a former think tank futurist and was an editor Reader's Digest Magazine for many years during its hay day when it was one of the most, if not the most prestigious publications in the world
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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Two cheers for Obama’s review of regulations

By Gretchen Hamel

Talk to any backyard gardener and they’ll tell you about the importance of weed control for a healthy garden. Weeds, allowed to grow unchecked, will soak up nutrients from the soil and block much needed sunlight from reaching your plants—choking off the bountiful growth of produce and flowers you hope to achieve.

 The U.S. economy is a lot like a garden. Unfortunately, the explosive growth of harmful federal regulations and red tape over the last few decades has had the same effect on our economy that weeds have on your garden—they’re choking off the growth we need to increase productivity and create jobs for working Americans.

 That’s why I was encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement last month that, following an eight-month review, hundreds of existing federal regulations that weigh as a burden on business and drag down economic growth would be eliminated or revised. The estimated savings for business is around $10 billion, according to the administration.

 In the August 23 Wall Street Journal, the president’s “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein pointed to more than 500 reforms in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and Health and Human Services, among others. These reforms would have the salutary effect of reducing paperwork, simplifying reporting processes and eliminating redundancy.

 Importantly, Sunstein also emphasized that we could expect more changes to come, stating that “the regulatory look-back is not a one-time endeavor.” He writes that the government “will continue to revisit existing rules, asking whether they should be updated, streamlined or repealed.” That’s welcome news, and long overdue.

 Regulations may seem like an abstraction, but they have real consequences: higher compliance costs for business result in higher prices for consumers in virtually every area. Americans instinctively understand this: In our recent poll, 74 percent of Americans—almost three-quarters—said they believe that U.S. business and consumers are too heavily regulated, and that more regulations drive up costs.

 It’s important to note that we didn’t get here overnight. Today’s jungle of red tape and regulations has flourished under successive presidencies and Congresses, under both Democratic and Republican leadership. President Obama should be commended for opening up an approach to clearing a path through that jungle.

 Many business leaders and Republican elected officials dismissed the announcement, arguing that the $10 billion in savings is just a drop in the bucket (which is true) and that the scope of the review is too limited, leaving countless equally harmful regulations untouched while new regulations continue to be enacted (also true.)

 But the fact is, every journey starts with a single step, so if you support American business and free enterprise, you should cheer this development as a step in the right direction. A reassuring follow-up to Sunstein’s announcement was the administration’s decision to halt planned regulations aimed at tightening ozone standards, which business and labor leaders warned would result in up to 250,000 lost jobs.

 I’ve been critical of the president and both parties in Congress for their lack of leadership on the national debt (now at $14.7 trillion) and their addiction to deficit spending (estimated this year at $1.3 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office). That’s because I know that debt and runaway spending are hampering economic growth and destroying our nation’s fiscal future.

 So when the president takes steps to open up greater possibilities for job creation and economic growth, we should applaud that development—and make it clear that we expect him to deliver more of the same.

 Key to that effort will be holding the Obama administration accountable for building upon this initial progress. Too often in Washington, efforts at reform are announced with a flourish and then quietly fade away. Let’s not let that happen: we should hold the president to account and encourage him to follow through on this worthy beginning by delivering further reforms to ease the regulatory burden on job creators.

 Here’s hoping this $10 billion in savings through regulatory reform will get the ball rolling so that in another eight months we might see additional reforms leading to, say, $100 billion or even more.

 Is that too much to hope for? Perhaps. Ensuring that the administration follows through on this early promise will be the key thing. But for now, let’s give credit where credit is due, and encourage President Obama and his team to keep going. More regulatory reform will serve to cut business costs, spur entrepreneurship and create American jobs—the “healthy garden” that we want our economy to be.

 So keep pulling those weeds, Mr. President. You’re on the right track. 

Gretchen Hamel is Executive Director of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how government policy affects Americans’ financial well being.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
GOP Debate Watch: Hold candidates to account on spending question
By Gretchen Hamel

If you’re still not over the 2010 election, it may be hard to believe the next presidential race is already in gear. In just the last few weeks, we’ve seen President Obama embark on a bus tour to promote his economic policies, and Republicans sparring it out in the Iowa Straw Poll. The next benchmark is September 7, when the GOP hopefuls debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California.
When these candidates take the stage, two questions should dominate: First, how do you plan to get the economy moving again? And second, what are you going to do to get federal spending under control?
These are related questions, because the nation’s debt and deficit spending are feeding into a climate of serious uncertainty about the economy. And the sad fact is that our political class has let us down when it comes to managing both the economy and the federal budget. Our gargantuan national debt ($14.7 trillion and counting) and runaway deficit spending (estimated at $1.3 trillion for this year alone by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office) stand as monuments to the fecklessness of our nation’s leadership.
The good news is that things may be changing, as both Democrats and Republicans have begun talking up the merits of getting the budget under control, in the aftermath of the impasse over raising the debt ceiling that almost led our nation into default.
Though it’s early in the campaign, a consistent theme has emerged as all the candidates emphasize the need for fiscal responsibility and reining in the growth of the federal government. Based on the tone the candidates are striking when speaking of the national debt and the deficit, you might be encouraged. “At last!” you might think. “The Republicans get it!”
But not so fast—let’s not let them off the hook quite so easily. While Republican candidates might sound the right notes in their talk about cutting spending, we need to consider the facts of how elected Republicans have managed the federal budget in recent years.
And the facts aren’t pretty:
  • While Republicans have been aggressive in challenging President Obama and Congressional Democrats on earmarks and discretionary spending, they’ve been slow to tackle cuts to defense spending and Social Security, which are drivers behind federal spending, and all of which are in desperate need of reform.
Simply put, both parties have a lot to answer for when it comes to our nation’s current budget troubles. And GOP primary voters, 80 percent of whom say they “worry ‘a great deal’ about federal spending” according to a recent Gallup poll, should keep that in mind as presidential candidates talk up their commitment to fiscal responsibility. Taxpayers need to make sure they hold to that commitment if they should get elected.

It’s a sad truth that many Republican officeholders are as addicted to spending taxpayer dollars as their Democratic counterparts. These spendthrifts are simply mouthing their devotion to fiscal responsibility.

When the Republican presidential hopefuls debate on September 7, pay close attention to their answers about how they intend to tackle federal spending, reduce the national debt and get the economy moving again. We intend to hold all officeholders—Democrats and Republicans— accountable when it comes to getting the nation’s fiscal house in order. Candidates from every party, whatever office they’re running for, should get that message.

Gretchen Hamel is Executive Director of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how government policy affects Americans’ financial well being.
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Thursday, September 1, 2011
Sacramento Liberals Releasing cold blooded killers back in your neighborhood


By Assemblyman Dan Logue

Liberal Democrats are just one vote away in the State Assembly from passing one of the most misguided public safety measures in California’s history – Senate Bill 9 authored by San Francisco Democrat Leland Yee.

This bill would allow murderers who were juveniles at the time they committed their crime and who were sentenced to life without parole to ask the court for re-sentencing up to three times. Given the language of the bill and the long history of Democrats supporting efforts to weaken California’s tough-on-crime laws, SB 9 is just the latest attempt by them to prioritize criminal rights.
That is why I joined a number of public safety officials and organizations such as the California Police Chiefs Association and Crime Victims United to oppose this bill because it could give a slap on the wrist to dangerous criminals like Jimmy Siackasorn.
Siackasorn, who was 16 at the time, shot Sacramento County detective Vu Nguyen three times and killed him while being chased on foot. He later told officers that he knew the detective was a police officer, and shot him because “he deserved it.” Under SB 9, cold-blooded murderers like Siackasorn could petition the court for re-sentencing under the right conditions and not prove he has shown genuine remorse. By just reading a self-help book and saying “I’m sorry,” he could have the opportunity to receive a lighter sentence.
The supporters of SB 9 would have you believe that it is about providing misguided people a chance at redeeming themselves. While I believe in the power of redemption, it has to be accompanied by repentance, which cannot be guaranteed by SB 9.
That is because if you look beyond the rhetoric, you will see that the bill establishes weak criteria where many inmates would be entitled to a court hearing to reconsider their original sentence. This criterion includes availing themselves of education programs in prison such as self-study – which is a ridiculously low standard to meet. A prisoner meeting these guidelines does not have to prove that he has truly recognized the error of his ways.
Even worse, SB 9 could reopen the painful wounds of many crime victim families on up to three separate occasions. If an inmate’s request for re-sentencing is denied the first time, he can try two more times, an agonizing ordeal for any family to go through. Instead of showing compassion to criminals, I suggest showing some compassion to their victims and families, who deserve justice and who expect the state to uphold the people’s will.
SB 9 is not about ensuring fairness, but rather undermining the strong public safety laws that have kept the worst of the worst behind bars. Keep in mind we are not talking about kids who broke into someone’s car qualifying for a reduced sentence, but potentially giving dangerous criminals a break who brutally murdered their victims. That makes no sense.
Finally, the state already has a system in place to ensure that those who showed genuine rehabilitation in prison can have a shot at a lighter sentence. Prisoners and their families can petition the Governor for a commutation, and previous Governors have granted commutations when the circumstances warranted it.
Although SB 9 fell one vote short of passage in the Assembly, it could come back for a vote in the near future if liberal Democrats can find one other moderate Democrat to vote for it. I will continue to work with the public safety community and crime victim families to ensure that SB 9 does not get that one additional vote.  Keeping our communities safe must always remain our top priority.
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, represents the 3rd Assembly District in the California Legislature.
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Monday, August 29, 2011
Governor Perry Attacked for Choosing New Medical Treatment

Should Gov. Rick Perry’s choice of medical treatment be between him and his doctor?

Recently, the governor of Texas and presidential hopeful had a bad back treated by injecting some of his very own fat cells, after they had been cultured and treated in a laboratory. The innovative use of a patient’s own adult stem cells is showing great promise in many conditions, including damaged joints.

Even though he is a public figure, Gov. Perry is also a human being and a patient. Should we not wish him well, and thank him for sharing his experience with a treatment that might be of interest to thousands of Americans?

The Los Angeles Times (http://articles.latimes.com/print/2011/aug/19/news/la-heb-rick-perry-stem-cell-back-surgery-20110819) is instead suggesting that he is a hypocrite for opposing embryonic stem-cell research while getting treatment for himself. Apparently, the Times doesn’t see any difference between sacrificing a human life to extract cells for research or for treatment of somebody else, and taking some of a person’s own cells, with his fully informed consent, to use for his own benefit.

“Some think that stem cells…could someday be used to generate soft tissue and bone,” writes Eryn Brown for the Times. In fact, adult stem cells are already being used successfully for some 80 different ailments. Recently reported data show significant benefit in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee; it is likely that 10 percent or more of total knee replacements could be averted by such therapy (http://www.jpands.org/vol16no2/centeno.pdf). Veterinarians are now using autologous stem cells (cells from the same animal) to treat dogs.

But some physicians have expressed concern that “such treatments often have not been thoroughly vetted by researchers or approved by the FDA.”

How much research do we need before physicians can prescribe outside the confines of a study? As of this morning, there are already 15,096 articles listed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine on only one adult stem cell type (mesenchymal stem cells,-the same general type used in Perry), while there are only 12,477 papers published on the most commonly used antibiotic (amoxicillin, for which 52.3 million prescriptions were written in 2010).

While all medical procedures have risks, the use of the patient’s own cells is a one-on-one procedure that is logically part of the practice of medicine. It does not entail the public health risk of products manufactured for a large number of recipients. There is no FDA oversight for procedures like grafting a leg vein into the patient’s own coronary artery, and minimal oversight of transplanting tissues from cadavers. The FDA is always trying to expand its regulatory authority—causing enormous increases in costs and lengthy delays in making new treatments available to patients.

“Vetting” procedures by researchers also costs millions of dollars and stifles and delays innovation. And what do researchers do? Like doctors, they do the procedure on human beings—they differ from doctors in that they follow a protocol in order to collect data on a group of experimental subjects, instead of following the procedure they think is best for an individual patient.

Yes, the procedure used to treat Perry could lead to infection, blood clots, or cancer. Treatment with embryonic cells, if it becomes feasible, would also have these risks, plus more from immunologic effects. Currently available orthodox treatments—drugs and surgery—also have a long list of adverse effects. And if they were very effective, there would not be “desperate patients” seeking costly alternatives.



Powerful vested interests —big universities, big government, big pharma—want to control what patients are or are not allowed to have. A past president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research accused Perry of “setting the wrong example for ailing patients.”


On the contrary. Governor Perry is setting the right example for Americans: a patient exercising his own freedom to seek the care he thinks is best, and a physician doing what he believes is best for his patient.

Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
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